If you make your own bread you will have come across the proving baskets known as bannetons. Traditionally these baskets are made of wicker or cane, some sort of breathable material, and often they have a cloth liner made of calico to prevent sticking. For some reason the ones you can purchase for domestic use seem to be incredibly expensive. I have made my own from time to time, fashioned from a basket or a colander lined with a tea towel, and it didn’t work terribly well! A while ago I was given a couple of cane baskets by an artisan baker and I have been using them a lot. They give a lovely beehive finish to the loaf. But they do stick occasionally.
Lately I came across a German company called Ernst Birnbaum who make proving baskets for the bread trade and will sell them to domestic breadbakers for a small additional cost. They have a very utilitarian web site which has an English version. Their range is astonishing and the prices are extremely reasonable. It took me a while to figure out the best way to pay for my order because my bank wanted to charge a huge amount for transferring the money, but eventually I used PayPal and I would urge anyone considering the exercise to do likewise.
I expected that the order would take a few weeks to arrive but four days after the PayPal instruction went through there was a knock on my front door and there they were. I was amazed.
These proving baskets are made of wood pulp and are very light but also sturdy. I suppose if commercial bakers are using them regularly they expect them to last. They do somehow remind you of something you might have seen in a hospital! I floured mine well before the dough went in and when I turned it out there was a satisfying sucking thunnckkk as it came out perfectly. The basket leaves tiny linen like indentations on the surface of the dough which stand out nicely when you slash the top.
I ordered seven pieces in different sizes for friends and myself and the total, including delivery charges from